Posted by Adrian Jaime on Sep 29 2015 at 05:00PM PDT
National Champions Our South Texas Walking Club Turtles had been the top race walking Junior Olympic team in the U.S. for many years but the Illinois Sharks came to the Junior Olympic National Championship in Jacksonville Florida ready to claim that honor. The Sharks brought nine of their team members to the JO’s. The Turtles began the year with seventeen but dismissed four of their members during the year and another four could not afford the trip and thus started the trip with the same number as did the Sharks, nine. Unfortunately for the Turtles, the parents of two of their nine athletes had auto problems on the way to Jacksonville and never made it to the stadium. The odds were now in favor of the Sharks. The Turtles took an early ten point lead on the first day with Emely Antuna and Johan Espinosa taking 4th and 2nd place respectively while Shark member Betsy Rodriguez took 7th place in the 13-14 year age bracket. The Turtle lead was short lived as the Sharks 9-10 year olds Heather and Hannah Durrant crossed their finish line in 4th and 6th place respectively for ten points giving the teams a new start at 12 points each. The Sharks then went on and finished the first day with an eight point lead as 9-10 year olds Frida Quiñones and Brisa De La Torre added nine points with their 3rd & 6th place finish, out pacing Turtle member Carolina Hernandez who finished in 8th place. The second day started with Turtle 15-16 year old member Julisa Juarez earning one point with her 8th place finish bringing the Sharks lead down to seven points. Turtle club member Amberly Melendez and Shark club member Nayeli Cisneros started off the next race together in their 17-18 year age group but Amberly soon took off after the predicted winner, Ashleigh Resch of Ohio. Amberly walked a superb race finishing in 2nd place in a personal best time of 14:58 while Nayeli finished in 3rd place reducing the Sharks lead down to six points. The Sharks were now confident of winning the championship as their top 15-16 year old Angelo Peters stood at the starting line on the next race. Vince Peters, our former national race walk chairman, had predicted that he would win this race but did give Eddy and Jonathan of the Turtle team an outside chance of an upset. This race turned out to be one of the most contested races of the day as the lead exchanged several times from Jordan Crawford (of Georgia) to Angelo, to Eddy, to Jonathan and finally to Jordan again. Jordan led most of the time and as Angelo tried to once again take the lead he fell prey to the judges 200 meters from the finish line as he was pulled out for, reportedly, a bent knee infraction. Jordan went on to win, but most importantly, Jonathan and Eddy finishing in 2nd and 3rd place respectively for thirteen points giving the Turtles yet another national championship.
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